London’s Riverside Artists Group features in two exhibitions, one in London and another in Madrid, in a juxtaposition that, somewhat coincidentally, raises important and pressing questions as to what it will be like for living contemporary artists exhibiting in mainland Europe when Britain leaves the European Union.
If London does finally exit the EU community, including its single market, the impact of that departure is set to be felt far and wide—and in many painful ways in the world of art. Both contemporary and historical art will be affected as customs barriers, import and export restrictions, value added tax complexities and visa limitations kick in.
For now, this small group of London-based artists, deriving its name from the member practitioners’ proximity to the River Thames, is one of many British artists’ associations, collectives and groups that continue to enjoy virtually unfettered access to an European mainland environment that, come Brexit, will become somewhat alien to them.
Not just gallerists but public museums are dreading the day when Brexit–hard or soft or something in between—becomes a reality. The consequences of this impending loss of such a large contemporary art market across Europe, in monetary terms and as a huge portal of potential exposure, are yet to be measured. One optimistic view, of course, is that none of that may happen as we anticipate or fear. We shall see.
So while it lasts, access to the European art market does indeed offer attractive opportunities in countries big or small, whether in dire financial straits or faring better than Britain in the present economic climate. The RAG show at Madrid’s Teatro LaGrada in September and October was a welcome exposure for artists with diverse offerings, pursuing fame and fortune on varying trajectories. And there’s no telling what an artist would feel inspired by to create an eye-catching work of art. Jane Oldfield (Fly with me, featured above) explained, “I have been learning to fly a glider and this has been influencing my work for some time.” As human beings, she adds, “Perhaps we might evolve a body able to ‘swim’ in the air. Flying brings you closer to the cosmos and recently I have seen it as a metaphor for our last journey towards death.”
When compared with blockbuster EU-linked shows and their multimillion dollar borrowings, as with the current National Gallery Caravaggio feast for the eyes, RAG’s Madrid showing was a tightly focused event in an unconventional artspace that brought together the work of 17 of the group’s member artists, including Oldfield. The other artists who showed their work in Madrid were: Susan Bazin
, Lynne Beel
, David Cottingham
, G Calvert, Emma Davis, Josie Deighton, Chloe Fremantle, Saadeh George
, Lucia Gomez, Pauline Harding, Marianne Moore, C. Morey De Morand,
Sajid Rizvi and Yuet Yean Teo
. RAG member and exhibiting artist Maria T Pastor coordinated and organised the show.
Several of the artists who showed their work in Madrid also have work on display at an ongoing exhibition in London at the Cavendish Conference Centre’s Whittington Suite. That exhibition opened 8 June and closes 23 December. Public viewing is arranged by phoning the centre, +44 7206 7711.
The Riverside Artists Group, active since 1986, says its raison d’être is to support and promote practising visual artists based in West London. In recent years, though, membership has overflowed that geographical constituency and meandered into other parts of the city. One notable feature of the group is that it rarely lets its shows be curated by outsiders unless there’s a compelling reason, including affordability. RAG has thrived in a collegiate setting, producing one successful show after another in Britain and abroad, including Spain and Russia and, in one instance, China. © Sajid Rizvi.